Platteville Pioneers pushed by prolific passing

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Having a healthy starting quarterback has been a big boost to UW-P in 2013.
UW-Platteville athletics photo

UW-Platteville was tabbed by WIAC coaches and SIDs to win this year’s conference title. At the clip that the Pioneers’ spread offense is scoring, it’s no wonder the other schools have so much respect for UW-P.

Platteville is scoring an average of 48 points per game, and the squad has jumped out to its first 4-0 start since 2004 – and only the second time since 1976.

“There’s some areas we need to improve on. We’re still making mistakes, but I think every coach in the nation is going to say that,” UW-Platteville’s veteran head coach Mike Emendorfer said. “But, yes, we’re excited about being 4-0.”

A big reason for that success is quarterback John Kelly’s ability to get the ball to the Pioneers’ playmakers. He threw seven touchdowns in Platteville’s come-from-behind win over WIAC rival UW-Eau Claire on Saturday, tying a school record.

“It’s nice to have different receivers that can really go out and they know what they’re doing. They can make plays,” Kelly said after guiding his team to a 49-27 victory. “Our goal is 4 or 5 yards a play, but we got all these athletes that can make one person miss and can turn it into 10 or 15 yards to get the first down and move down the field.

“It’s really them making the plays in the spread offense,” he added. “My job is just to get them the ball in space. And that’s what they do best.”

Kelly threw touchdown passes to six different players en route to completing 32 of 39 passes for 442 yards.

“We have seven receivers that rotate in and out, and six of the seven scored touchdowns. We sort of gave crap to Trevor Whitehead – who is one of our top players. He was the one who didn’t score a touchdown on Saturday,” Emendorfer said.

Kelly’s seven-touchdown performance ties Bryce Corrigan’s school record. Corrigan, who passed for more than 2,100 yards in nine games last season when Kelly was injured, is the second-string quarterback on the roster.

“It’s kind of unique too that Bryce Corrigan – his backup – threw seven touchdown passes last season. So we’re very fortunate to have two quarterbacks like that in our program,” Emendorfer said, referring to Corrigan’s effort versus UW-Stout in 2012. “It’s a luxury to have, but I’m also disappointed because I know I had to make a choice between John and Bryce.

“We’re just blessed to have two of them,” he continued. “John has the experience and, obviously, he did an outstanding job on Saturday.”

Kelly helped Platteville overcome its first halftime deficit of the season. Down 20-14 at the break, Kelly completed five touchdown passes in the second half, including his record-tying pass to Bryan Whitehead.

“I think we need to be (confident),” Kelly said. “We just try to be explosive – try to score from anywhere on the field.”

Kelly, who now has 1,173 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, deflected praise after the win Saturday. Rather he credited running back Lee Vlasak – who caught a touchdown pass in the second half – for establishing the run game and opening the passing attack.

“To me, (the record) means not too much. My job is simply to get the ball to the athletes, and they make the plays,” Kelly said.

“We got a lot of weapons and a lot of experience,” Emendorfer added of his offense that averages 542.5 total yards per game.

The quarterback also gave his offensive line kudos for keeping their streak of not allowing a sack intact.

“The offensive line – they take pride in that the most,” Kelly said.

The Pioneers are happy to have their first conference win under their belt, but their goals are set high. Kelly said Platteville wants to have the top-ranked offense in the country and secure a league title.

“We want to be the best,” Kelly said. “For us, offensively, we just concentrate on what we got to do to score points and get a win.

“We are playing in the WIAC – the best conference in the nation – and that’s our goal, to win that first.”

The road ahead will not be easy. Platteville, which last won a conference title in 1980, will play at UW-Whitewater and UW-Oshkosh in November.

“It’s just making sure that when we play those teams in November, they mean something,” Emendorfer said. “To make that happen, we have to win week after week – starting with River Falls this upcoming week. If those games are going to mean anything, we have to continue winning.

“We expect great things out of this team. As long as we stay healthy, we like our opportunities,” he continued. “When you look at our league, you have three teams ranked in the top-10 in the nation. To win this league is sometimes a bigger challenge than playing in the playoffs. So every week is a big challenge for us.”

Linfield shuts out PLU

In a meeting of ranked team’s Linfield shut out Northwest Conference rival Pacific Lutheran, 29-0.

The game was tight through three quarters with the Wildcats holding a 7-0 lead going into the fourth. But second-ranked Linfield put 22 points on the board in the fourth quarter.

Josh Hill finished the game with 66 yards rushing and three touchdowns while Josh Yoder completed 17-of-27 passes for 200 yards.

The Wildcat defense intercepted four Dalton Ritchey passes – including three in the fourth quarter – and recovered a fumble to register the shutout.

“They’re a great team,” PLU head coach Scott Westering told the News Tribune. “Gee whiz, offensively and defensively, they deserve to be ranked No. 2 in the country, if not higher.”

The rest of the West

Bethel scored 17 straight points and then held off MIAC rival Augsburg’s late push to win 31-28. Erik Peterson threw three touchdown passes to help the Royals improve to 4-0. … UW-Oshkosh held off a second half rally to get past UW-Stout, 28-26. Rick Marteney kicked his fourth field goal to pull the Blue Devils within two points, but Oshkosh held the hosts scoreless for the final eight minutes to preserve the win. … The Dubuque defense forced three turnovers and registered two quarterback sacks in a 23-21 win over Central. … Greenville remained undefeated with a narrow 21-20 victory over Crown in UMAC play. … Defending IIAC champion Coe scored twice in the fourth quarter to pull away with a 21-7 win over Buena Vista. … Chapman scored 72 points in a blowout win over Whittier in its SCIAC opener to improve to 3-0 overall. … Sawyer Petre set a school record when he kicked a 51-yard field goal but Puget Sound lost to Lewis and Clark, 60-30. The Pioneers got a four-touchdown performance from Keith Welch as he finished 26-of-38 for 352 yards. Lewis and Clark had 697 yards of total offense.

Rank ’em

The West Region has 10 teams ranked in this week’s Top 25, placing six in the top 10.

No. 2 Linfield headlines the Region’s ranked teams. The Northwest Conference is also represented by No. 15 Pacific Lutheran and new-comer Willamette at No. 25. Pacific garnered two votes this week.

MIAC rivals Bethel and St. Thomas remained ranked at Nos. 5 and 6, respectively. Concordia-Moorhead rose one spot to No. 22. Augsburg and St. John’s are also receiving votes.

UW-Platteville, UW-Oshkosh and UW-Whitewater are ranked Nos. 8, 9 and 10, respectively. WIAC rival UW-Stevens Point received a vote as well.

Coe moved up one spot to No. 19 as the only IIAC school listed.

Cal Lutheran is the lone SCIAC school represented, appearing in the receiving votes category.

Number of the week

63 – as in the number of years since the last time Pacific began a season 4-0. The Boxers – who are in their fourth year as a program after a 20-year hiatus – defeated Whitworth, 31-21, for their first win over the Pirates since 1978. Pacific will try to remain undefeated at home Saturday versus Puget Sound.

Looking ahead

No. 5 Bethel travels to No. 22 Concordia-Moorhead for a battle of unbeatens in the MIAC. Both teams hold a half-game lead over St. John’s, Augsburg and Gustavus Adolphus and are one game in front of three-time defending champ St. Thomas.

Also keep an eye on the SCIAC matchup between Redlands and host Cal Lutheran. The Kingsmen have won the last four league titles, and Redlands has finished runner-up the last three. Both teams have losing records after challenging non-conference schedules, and neither wants to take a third loss.

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